Thu. Jan 23rd, 2020

Earth hit by mysterious burst of gravitational waves from unknown source

2 min read

A computer simulation of two black holes merging together (Image: Nasa)

A computer simulation of two black holes merging together (Image: Nasa)

A burst of gravitational waves has blasted Planet Earth, scientists have announced.

Scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) picked up the waves using highly sensitive detection equipment.

We don’t yet know what’s responsible for the outburst, but it may have been produced by the merging of two gigantic black holes.

Christopher Berry, an astrophysicist working on gravitational waves at LIGO, said the signal may been produced by the coming together of ‘extremely heavy black holes’.

However, he said there was a chance the detection was a false positive rather than a genuine outburst of gravitational waves as ‘they are easily confused with glitches’.

Last year, LIGO announced the detection of a huge pulse of gravitational waves coming from a source 3 billion light years away.

These waves are ripples in the fabric of space-time and are a surefire sign that two black holes are coming together.

It’s believed the waves were produced when two holes which were part of a binary system smashed into each other.

LIGO scientists said the discovery is a ‘very strong candidate for a real gravitational waves event.’

‘Our latest candidate is not quite in our cosmic backyard: its most likely distance is about 1 gigaparsec, or just over 3 billion light-years,’ LIGO added.

You may not know it, but you’ve already been hit by gravity waves.

LIGO has spotted 13 mergers in May and June of this 2019 alone, suggesting that these events are relatively common.

By the time the waves hit Earth, they are extremely weak but still have the power to ever-so-slightly stretch out our bodies to make them a little bit longer.

On Quora, astrophysicist Richard Muller from the University of Berkeley wrote: ‘A gravity wave did hit you last September 14 at a little bit after 9:50 UT. The same one that was detected by LIGO hit the entire Earth (and much more) including you.

‘When it hit you, you stretched slightly in a direction perpendicular to the direction the wave came from, and compressed slightly in the third direction.

‘The total amount of stretching and compression was much less than the size of the nucleus of an atom, so you didn’t notice. In fact, it was so tiny that even if your body were kilometres in size, the stretching and compression would have been much less than that of a nucleus.’

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